Your Ethics Committee

When designing a research project, it is important for colleagues who are not directly involved in the project to support you in considering the ethical implications associated with your research. If you are being supported in your research by a higher education institution, there will be a Research Ethics Committee consisting of members of staff who are experienced in carrying out ethical reviews of research proposals.


What does gaining informed consent mean?

Before you can proceed with data collection it is necessary to go through a process of gaining informed consent from potential participants in the research. A key issue relating to gaining informed is competence (Wiles, Heath, Crow and Charles, 2005), which relates to whether an individual is able to:


What you need to consider to ensure high ethical standards

Considerations that you need to take into account when planning ethical research:

  • respect the rights and dignity of participants in the research

  • gain informed consent prior to starting the research

  • ensure anonymity and confidentiality at each stage of the research

  • carry out analysis of the findings with honesty and integrity

(Cresswell, 2013)

For research in education, professional guidelines are provided by the British Education Research Association:


Underpinning principles for ethical research

The fundamental principle underpinning the ethics of research in social sciences is that as a researcher it is your duty to ensure that no harm comes to the participants as a consequence of their involvement in the research. 


Useful resources

Links to ethical guidelines published by associations providing support for research in social sciences:

British Education Research Association Ethical Guidelines (2018)

ESRC Research Ethics Framework



Clark, A. (2006) Anonymising Research Data, ESRC National Centre for Research Methods, NCRM, Working Paper Series 7/06.

Corden, A. & Sainsbury, R. (2005) Research Participants’ Views on Use of Verbatim Quotations. SPRU, University of York.



This MESHGuide draws on a range of key literature in the field of social science research ethics. Also its design has been informed by lessons learned from my own research, which has focussed on the following areas:


Considering ethics in your research

This guide is designed to help you to:

  • Understand the significance of ethical concerns in the research process
  • Identify the nature of the ethical issues that may be of significance in the design and implementation of your research
  • Develop your research design in a way that takes into account of ethical considerations, so that your research is as ethical as possible
  • Understand the complexity of the process of gaining informed consent and enable you to achieve this
  • Reflect on the complexity of research ethics



Subscribe to RSS - Ethics